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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
November 2, 2012

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: World Powers Signal Frustration with Syria's Status Quo

The international community seems to be growing weary of the bloody stalemate in Syria's nineteen-month-old conflict, say analysts, with major powers signaling a desire to forge a diplomatic solution (NYT) in recent days. China, which has steadfastly supported the Assad regime along with Russia, announced of a four-point peace plan for Syria just one day after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for an overhaul of the opposition leadership. Beijing's "vague" proposal includes a staged cease-fire and political transition, but lacks specifics on any future role of President Assad.

The diplomatic maneuvering serves as a prelude to a four-day conference of Syrian opposition leaders starting Sunday in Doha, Qatar. In the lead-up, Secretary Clinton indicated the White House is in the process of recommending names and organizations that should be included in any new rebel leadership (AP). Among other opposition groups, analysts say Washington is pushing for a more prominent role for the Free Syrian Army, the primary fighting force on the ground.

Analysis

"Many [Iraqi Sunnis] also are anticipating the day when Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is overthrown and replaced by a Sunni regime that will give them a counterweight to Shi'ite power that has grown steadily in Baghdad since the fall of Saddam Hussein," write Patrick Markey and Suadad al-Salhy for Reuters. "For Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and other Shi'ite leaders, the prospect of a possibly radical Sunni leader next door is a nightmare scenario. They fear it will embolden the country's own Sunni leaders and could tempt insurgents in Syria to turn their sights on Iraq."

"The international community is waiting for Syria's disorganized opposition to transform itself into a coherent, effective force as much as the opposition is waiting for the international community. This entails forming a common platform that represents all relevant groups, including the Local Coordination Committees, the Syrian Revolution Coordinators Union, and the Free Syrian Army's military councils," writes Volker Perthes for Project Syndicate.

 

What Will Be the Top Global Hot Spots in 2013?

Each year, CFR's Center for Preventive Action asks a group of experts to rank various violent contingencies in order of their importance to U.S. national security interests. Help them create that list by telling them what international conflicts you are worried about breaking out or escalating next year. Learn more and weigh in here.

PACIFIC RIM

China Tightens Security Ahead of Transition

Beijing is tightening security in anticipation of next week's eighteenth Communist Party congress. Public events have been cancelled or postponed, and stores throughout the capital have been told not to sell knives, scissors, or other potentially dangerous items (VOA).

JAPAN: Sharp Corp., once a leading consumer electronics company, today expressed major doubts about its survival (Businessweek) and saw its credit rating downgraded to junk by Fitch Ratings.

 

SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA

India Stresses Stronger Ties for Indian Ocean Rim

India's external affairs minister has told a meeting of nineteen regional ministers of the need for greater economic and security cooperation (TheHindu) in the Indian Ocean area. The meeting outside New Delhi today aimed to create a ten-year road map for promoting trade and investment.

MYANMAR: Expressing encouragement at reforms, the World Bank has announced an $80 million grant to Myanmar (BBC) to help in poverty reduction and infrastructure development in rural areas.

 

MIDDLE EAST

Kuwait Frees Opposition Leader Amid Protests

Kuwait released on bail opposition activist Musallam Al-Barrak, who was arrested for making statements critical of Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah, after thousands of protesters rallied for his release. The incident takes place in the wake of nearly two weeks of protests over a change to the voting law (Independent), which the opposition says is an attempt to weaken its chances and will make it easier for corrupt candidates to buy votes.

SYRIA: A video posted online seeming to depict Syrian rebels executing captured government troops (ABC) could be considered a "war crime," says the UN. Activists have reported similar summary executions by regime forces for months, but there has been mounting evidence of similar tactics being used by rebel groups as well.

 

AFRICA

Guinea Swears In New Electoral Commission

Guinean President Alpha Conde named a new twenty-five-member electoral commission (Reuters) after the opposition boycotted the previous commission on accusations that a nominee had been replaced without its consent. Guinea has undergone a long political stalemate that has stalled legislative polls needed to finalize a transition to civilian rule after a 2008 coup.

TANZANIA: Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda addressed recent religious protests in the country (TanzaniaDailyNews), saying the country's religious harmony was in danger and that "force will be applied in case such dialogue fails to work." Protests broke out in mid-October in Zanzibar by an Islamist separatist group and in Dar es Salaam by supporters of an arrested Muslim cleric, raising concerns of escalating religious tensions in the secular country.

 

EUROPE

Greek Parliament to Probe 'Lagarde List' Controversy

On Thursday, financial prosecutors asked the Greek parliament to investigate why politicians failed to pursue 2,000-plus Greeks (Ekathimerini) with Swiss bank accounts. IMF chief Christine Lagarde identified these individuals, suspected of tax evasion, two years ago while serving as France's finance minister. Greek former finance ministers Giorgos Papaconstantinou and Evangelos Venizelos, could face charges of criminal negligence (FT).

FRANCE: On Thursday, French President François Hollande and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the Jewish school in Toulouse (EuroNews) where gunman Mohammed Merah shot and killed four people this past March.

 

AMERICAS

Brazil Tests Controversial Method for Dengue Eradication

In Brazil, millions of genetically engineered mosquitos (LAT) are being released into the wild in an effort to combat mosquito-carried dengue fever, which kills about 22,000 worldwide each year. The move makes Brazil a leading testing ground for the controversial method.

CUBA: The east side of the island suffered extensive damage from Hurricane Sandy (BBC), with eleven people dead and more than 188,000 homes damaged as the storm passed over Cuba last week.

 

CAMPAIGN 2012

Romney Criticizes 'Secretary of Business' Proposal

GOP nominee Mitt Romney criticized President Obama's proposal to consolidate numerous government business programs (CBS) into one agency, calling it another layer of bureaucracy, while the Obama administration characterized it as streamlining the federal government.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said that he will have senior Obama administration officials answer questions about the consulate attack in Benghazi under oath (RealClearPolitics) if Republicans take control of the Senate and he becomes the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

 

 

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